State health officials suspect jambalaya is the cause of an outbreak of Salmonella poisoning in Caldwell Parish.
Dr. David Holcombe with the State Office of Public Health says there are 49 confirmed cases of a gastrointestinal illness with 31 people hospitalized. He says salmonella is usually associated with chicken and eggs.
“It’s usually problems associated with preparation, cross contamination of cutting boards or poor storage techniques for either the raw product or the cooked product.”
Holcombe says they know that 300 plates of jambalaya were served at a softball charity event over the weekend. He says one person who showed symptoms associated with Salmonella poisoning died but it is still unclear if that is what caused his death.
“The usual symptoms are abdominal cramping, fever and diarrhea. It can occur any time between six hours up to three days and it usually lasts between four and seven days.”
Holcombe says very rarely will salmonella travel into the blood causing sepsis and eventually death. He also notes salmonella is difficult to spread from person to person.
“So with adequate hand washing and not contaminated fecal matter than you’re getting in your hands, people should do fine.”
NOAA released their winter outlook saying La Nina will dictate a warmer and drier winter in Louisiana for a second year in a row, moving winter weather away from the southeastern U.S. State Climatologist Barry Keim says the weather could be setting up for a repeat of 2011.
"The Midwest was exceptionally wet, we were exceptionally dry and in drought here in Louisiana", Keim said. "But yet it was so wet up in the Midwest, all this water came raging down the Mississippi River, while we were still in drought here."
Keim says the last few weeks of dry and warm weather are a precursor of this coming winter according to NOAA.
"We've been running exceptionally dry across the state, running well below 50 percent of normal. We're actually teetering on the edge of drought even now. The forecast for the next several months does not really bode well", Keim said.
Does this mean there won't be cold snaps to affect Louisiana? Keim says don't put the coats away.
"Just because the long term forecast does call for warmer than normal, it doesn't mean we won't get an Arctic intrusion and we won't get a cold blast here or there", Keim said.
The winter forecast will be revised by NOAA in Mid-November.
Pineville Police have made an arrest in the stabbing death of 42-year-old Latish White. A passerby found her body near the Pineville Expressway early Wednesday morning. Pineville Deputy Police Chief Darrell Basco says they learned 29-year-old Matthew Sonnier of Pineville was responsible for her death and arrested him in Alexandria.
"We had a short pursuit in Monroe/Levin street area", Basco said. "After he wrecked the vehicle the officers with the assistance of the Alexandria Police Department patrol division, we were able to apprehend him."
Basco says Sonnier was a known acquaintance of White and the two were together at the time of her death.
"From the information we've been able to ascertain as of this time, the initial stabbing of the victim occurred inside of his vehicle that was in the vicinity of where the victim was dropped out of the vehicle at the intersection", Basco said.
It has been a quiet year for the Pineville Police Department. Basco says he is glad his department worked quickly to apprehend Sonnier.
"It was a good thing that this was our first homicide of the year and it's a great thing we were able to clear it within 24 hours", Basco said.
Sonnier is charged with second degree murder and aggravated flight from an officer. He is in the Rapides Parish Detention Center without bond.
The Caddo Parish Commission will likely vote today to remove the statue of a Confederate soldier outside of the parish courthouse in Shreveport. LSU Shreveport Associate Professor of Political Science Jeffery Sadow says last month the council preliminarily voted to support the removal of the monument.
“The vote kind of indicated that when the formal vote of the ordinance to remove the monument it would succeed. Of course we have to wait on the vote but the indication is that they are going to vote to remove that monument.”
The United Daughters of the Confederacy erected the statue and the parish has kept no official record of who currently owns the land which it stands on. Sadow say this could create problems if the council does vote to remove the monument.
“The UDC or somebody else might sue them saying they don’t have ownership and therefore they can’t move it. If that’s what happens then this probably is not over, it probably will drag on for some time.”
Sadow says the monument was placed on the location of the last capitol of the Confederacy. He says the statue received the designation to be on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014 but that likely won’t affect if the monument can be removed or not.
“Just because something is designated as that does not prohibit a local government from doing something to it. That is certainly something would discouraged it’s movement, it is a historically recognized object, not just the object itself but where it’s situated.”
Sadow says the community has not made much public noise keeping up the monument or removing it.
In a couple of few weeks, hundreds of inmates will be released in Louisiana as a result of a criminal justice reform package signed into law by Governor John Bel Edwards. Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator voiced concern that violent criminals will be released early without proper rehabilitation. But Edwards says Prator didn’t have the best information.
“It’s all modeled off other southern conservative states who are years ahead of us in these reform efforts. So we the impact they had elsewhere and took best practices.”
Prator also said it was important to keep “good” prisoners incarcerated, so they can pick up trash, wash cars, and cook for first responders. Edwards says these are the individuals Louisiana wants to release early, because they have proven themselves trustworthy and did not commit a violent offense.
“Those are the ones that all states are targeting for criminal justice reform measure and it’s a real world concern but it’s not one that should control the policy debate.”
The goal of the criminal justice reform is to reduce the state’s incarceration rate, to lower inmate costs and use the savings to fund more rehabilitation programs. Edwards says the majority of inmates will only be released about two months early. He says these reform efforts will help do more than just reduce the incarceration rate.
“It’s also about reducing recidivism, improving public safety, and reinvesting our money to make sure we’ll be successful, the money we’re going to save.”
A Jackson Parish paper mill will continue to play a vital role in north Louisiana's economy. WestRock will perform a 200-million-dollar expansion, saving about 400 jobs at the mill in Hodge and another 3,700 indirect jobs. State Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson says it's a big economic development win.
"To really understand the impact you got to look outside the fence line at four or five seven Parishes, maybe more, that feed Louisiana timber into that mill", Pierson said.
The mill’s annual payroll is some 28-million-dollars. To help with their payroll and other operating costs, Pierson says WestRock will receive tax breaks.
"The state will rebate a portion of the income tax that we collect from the mill will lower their tax assessment for five years", Pierson said.
State Representative Jack MacFarland says if the facility closed down, it would be catastrophic, since the mill also provides needed utilities.
"Those living in that community would have to have the assistance of the state to financially overcome the loss of electricity and wastewater treatment", McFarland said.
The mill produces 800-thousand tons of container board paper each year.
LSU political communication professor Mike Henderson finds that voter turnout for statewide elections has been on a decline for the last 30 years. In 1983, 54-percent of the eligible voters voted for governor and in 2015 the voter turnout was down to 33-percent. Last weekend’s special election saw only a 13-percent turnout. Henderson says the voting public seems to be burned out on state politics.
"We've had a lot of competitive statewide elections the last few years, so maybe there's less campaigning going on", Henderson said. "But what's also going on is this is a long term decline in Louisiana participation."
Henderson hopes more information on the issues and the candidates could help increase voter participation, but it could also backfire.
"So even if we sort of got it out there all the time, are people going to pay attention to it? Even if trying to push this stuff more, it would help but probably not help a lot", Henderson said.
Is it possible that having statewide elections on Saturday hurts voter turnout? Henderson says there are two trains of thought.
"Maybe fewer people are working and therefore they have more time to go and participate in the election. The other thing you sometimes hear in Louisiana is that Saturdays elections in the fall could run up against the football game. But there's no real evidence that it pushes things down much."
The Iberville Parish Council has made it illegal to burn a flag. Council Chairman Matt Jewell says the move is in response to an Ohio incident when a flag was burned causing consternation among war veterans there. Though there has not been any incidents in Iberville Parish, he and others want to make sure it doesn't offend Veteran’s there…
"I promised them at the last Veteran's Day Memorial celebration that I would pass something in Iberville Parish to discourage that", Jewell said.
The ACLU says Iberville Parish can’t stipulate any laws to prevent First Amendment rights. Louisiana ACLLU Executive Director Marjorie Esman says the council made a mistake.
"What they've done is pass a law they know is unenforceable, that is illegal", Esman said. "And that sets a really bad example for the public. What that tells the public is that the elected officials don't care what the law of the land is".
Jewell brushes off any comment made the ACLU as the organization's usual rhetoric.
"The ACLU is doing their job. That's what they do. They flag these things and comment on it. If they're not commenting, they're not doing their job. We are going to enforce it."
Iberville Parish leaders reason they passed the law since their community is very patriotic. Burning flags will result in a one-thousand-dollar fine and possibly six months in jail. Esman says the passage of the law is just the opposite.
"The laws of this county protect people's rights to do the things they just banned. So in fact an act of patriotism would be to uphold the laws of the land and not violate them by passing unenforceable or unconstitutional laws", Esman said.
The law is expected to go into effect in 30 days.
According to the Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index, Louisiana ranks 42nd on tax competitiveness. Senior Policy Analyst Jared Walczak says the reason for this low rating is because the Bayou State has one of the nation’s most complex tax structures. He says Louisiana has a number of taxes that most states have foregone.
“An ideal tax code raises the necessary revenue without unduly picking winners and losers. It doesn’t put a thumb on the scale to guide economic decision making.”
Wyoming ranked number one in the nation when it comes to tax competitiveness and New Jersey came in 50th. Walczak says Louisiana’s complex tax code makes it difficult for new companies to conduct business.
“You file in every location, you pay on different things. What you might pay a sales tax on in one parish, you won’t pay it in another. That’s needlessly complex, it’s hard to comply with, it makes it harder to do business with in Louisiana.”
The index reports Louisiana ranks 50th for the state’s sales tax structure. Walczak says Louisiana could benefit greatly if it simplified its tax code.
“The sales tax could be on a unified base across the state. There could be simplifications and consolidations of collections. I know these are difficult things but they are worth doing.”
A tiger who became a roadside attraction in Grosse Tate was euthanized. Tony the Tiger had lived at an Iberville Parish Tiger Truck Stop since 2001. Due to health issues, he was put to sleep on Monday. Attorney Jennifer Treadway says despite what protesters say, Tony died peacefully and was very loved by his caretakers.
"Every one of his caretakers was there to pat him and hug him and I was watching grown men weeping", Treadway said.
There have been ongoing legal battles between Tony’s owner Michael Sandlin and the Animal Legal Defense Fund. Sandlin’s attorney Jennifer Treadway says Sandlin plans to get another tiger which he has the proper permit to do so.
"He has a zoo license from the USDA, Federal government under the Animal Welfare Act just as LSU does.", Treadway said.
Senior Staff Attorney for the Animal Legal Defense Fund Tony Eliseuson claims Tony lived in deplorable conditions.
"Having a majestic animal like Tony living in a truck stop environment where he's being exposed to diesel fumes every day and being in a small cage ultimately led to his demise", Eliseuson said.
Eliseuson says they stand ready to prevent another tiger from living at that truck stop.
"Louisiana in its wisdom passed the Louisiana Big Cat ban in 2006. That should prevent Mr. Sandlin and Tiger Truck Stop from ever getting another tiger." Eliseuson said.
Open enrollment for the Medicare program is now until December 7th for 2018 plans.
State Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon says this is the only time of the year when senior citizens can shop around for their plans and compare prices.
He says it’s important to find a plan that goes along with your current doctors.
“You must always be mindful of the need to have your important healthcare providers, your doctors, in your network, so that you are eligible to get coverage through the Medicare system.”
Donelon says there are different plans with different pricing structures available during this period, so there is a good chance for savings.
“By moving from one plan to another, a plan may have lowered their premiums or you may not have been aware of a cheaper available option when you signed up last year.”
Staff with the Senior Health Insurance Information Program are available to talk with Louisiana residents. Donelon says call L-D-I to reach someone who can help with the shopping process at 1 (800) 259-5300. He says there are assistance programs to help some individuals pay for healthcare premiums.
“They are means tested so you would have to meet the eligibility based on your income. We can help you determine if you are eligible.”
Two years from now, Louisiana voters will likely be gearing up for a gubernatorial runoff election. GOP Chairman Roger Villere says they plan to go after current Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards in a big away. He says Edwards does not share many of the conservative beliefs of Louisiana voters.
“I think he’s moderate to liberal on a number of other issues. His brand of politics is more moderate than I like. Even if he was a Republican, I’d be pushing to get a more conservative Republican in there.”
Villere says one big name that has been mentioned a lot for the 2019 election is U.S. Senator John Kennedy. He says Kennedy is an extremely formidable candidate for the position.
“He has the ability to raise the money. He has high name recognition having just run for the U.S. Senate. Also, I believe he served for 17 years as the state treasurer.”
Villere says many other potentially strong Republican politicians have voiced interest in running for Governor.
“Taylor Barras, Senator Appel, Conrad Appel said he was looking at it. Garret Graves said he was looking at it. [Ralph] Abraham said he was looking at it.”
An 18-month-old is dead following a gruesome murder. New Orleans Police says the father, 45-year-old
Mark Hambrick told police “God made him do it.”
Police Chief Michael Harrison says Hambrick called himself into police several
hours after he killed the child.
"The call came from the resident who actually lives at that location, who told us over the phone that he had stabbed and suffocated his 18-month-old child", Harrison said.
Hambrick gave a detailed description to police of himself and the child and told them he would be found on his porch when police came on the property. Harrison says the father remained strangely calm while they arrested him…
"Because he told us he would be waiting, certainly that speaks to his mental state that we can reasonably suspect that is not normal," Harrison said.
Harrison says the exact motive is still unknown, however police say they are seeking any information about Hambrick that can help them with the investigation.
"We are searching for any and all evidence that could be related to this incident. We're looking for anyone who has information about Mr. Hambrick to give us a call or call Crimestoppers at 822-1111", Harrison said.
Hambrick is in custody with charges to be filed later.
The state Department of Children and Family Services has posted an online mapping tool called Safe Haven Facility Locator in an effort to prevent newborn abandonment. Child Protective Services Program Manager Mona Michelli says a mother can visit louisianasafehaven.com to find a place where they can give up a child less than 60 days old.
“To be able to raise awareness of where the facilities are and to bring about an easy way for any mother who would want to take advantage of the Safe Haven Relinquishment Law.”
A 13-year-old Baker mother left her new born baby at her teacher’s house yesterday, according to police. Michelli says the locator website was just launched last week but they’re hopeful mothers will use it to their advantage.
“We want to prevent any death that is not necessary. It’s a safe alternative to abandonment without any legal ramifications to the mother.”
If a mother or parent is not able to locate a facility, call 911 and an emergency responder can transport the child to a facility. Michelli says there are many Safe Haven locations for a mother of a child under 60 days old to relinquish her newborn.
“To an employee of a designated Safe Haven site and a Safe Haven site includes hospitals, health units, police stations, fire stations.”
Michelli says it’s important to remember a mother faces no legal recourse if she follows the Safe Haven laws.
The first class of the Louisiana Veteran Entrepreneurship Program has started training military vets to run their own business. State Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson says the class helps veterans wanting to go into business, by taking online classes and boot camp training on the LSU campus.
"They execute about 30 hours of online instruction then they come to a two day boot camp on the LSU campus, where they're linked up with someone that will follow them through the process of business startup", Pierson said.
Pierson says they are seeking all veterans young and old to get involved in a business that will be successful for them. He says some areas of Louisiana are seeing tremendous growth.
"There's a lot of activity around Lake Charles. Certainly activity is picking up in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. We're working very hard to see things improve in Cenla and Northwestern Louisiana", Pierson said.
Pierson says recent economic growth is making this a good time for veterans to venture out into the small business world.
"There's always great opportunities for good ideas from hard working people that can deliver a product or service.", Pierson said.
They hope to train over 100 participants in the first year with a long term goal of creating 100 new jobs through the businesses created from this program.
Louisiana is once again tops for murders in the country. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program says the states murder rate was 11.8 per 100,000 persons, with 554 homicides in 2016. New Orleans based Crime analyst Jeff Asher says this trend has gone on for some time.
"Louisiana has the highest murder rate in the country and this is the 28th consecutive year that we've met that unfortunate distinction, "Asher said.
Asher says even is you didn't county New Orleans, Louisiana would remain tops in the country. But why does the state have the highest homicide rate in America? Asher says it could be a number of factors.
"Starting with education and poverty and leading up to policing and murder clearance rates and everything in between", Asher said.
Asher says even though Louisiana has the highest homicide rate in the county, the number of murders have declined over the last two decades.
"It's worth pointing out that the murder rate is about half of where it was in the early 1990's. In 1993, it was 20.3 per 100,000 and last year it was 11.8 per 100,000", Asher said.
Asher says he hopes to see State Legislators to take the lead in helping to pass laws to help decrease the murder rate further.
Investigators are continuing to piece together the strange
case of a baby born to a 13-year-old girl in Baker. Police say the family wasn’t aware she was pregnant
and gave birth in her bedroom. Baker Police Chief Carl Dunn says the teen
decided to drop the newborn off, with the umbilical cord still attached on a
school teacher’s front porch.
"From the interview, I'm thinking they were thinking the teacher was someone who would care and make sure the baby was taken to the right place", Dunn said.
Dunn says after the baby was born, the teen got her brother to assist with dropping the child off at a neighbor's house.
"They tried to clean up the scene where the baby was born. They cleaned the baby up, wrapped the baby in a blanket, put the baby at the stoop of the teacher they knew", Dunn said.
Dunn says he’s getting the word out about this incident because Louisiana law allows mothers to legally relinquish their newborns without repercussions.
"Call the police, call EMS, call the fire department. That's our job. We're coming with a solution for you:, Dunn says.
Police suspect the father is also just 13-years-old.
New Orleans is on the verge of electing its first female mayor. Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell and former Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet are in the November 18 runoff. Political analyst Clancy Dubos says with history in the making, more attention will be drawn to the Mayor’s race in the runoff election.
"I think there will be a lot more attention paid to each of them and the debates will be more focused and perhaps even more sharp edged," Dubos said.
Voter turnout in Orleans Parish for the Mayoral primary was 32 percent.
Dubos says even though New Orleans has never had a female mayor, it's not a big surprise to see two women in the runoff.
"Women are 55% of the New Orleans registered voters, and about 57% and sometimes a little more of the turnout, so it's certainly logical that you would have at least one woman in the runoff and now we have two," Dubos said.
The state Treasurer’s race will also be decided next month. Dubos expects a less than 10 percent turnout statewide. He says Democrat Derrick Edwards and Republican John Schroder have their work cut out for them, when it comes to securing votes.
"Both candidates have to work very hard to get their voters out to the polls, to get their voters motivated to go out their to cast a ballot," Dubos said.
A dismal 13 percent voters, representing about 400,000, participated statewide last Saturday.
The three constitutional amendments on Saturday’s ballot passed and are now law. President of the Public Affairs Research Council Robert Travis Scott says the first amendment which establishes a property tax exemption for construction work in progress will make things more certain for tax assessors.
“Been thrown into somewhat of a legal question about how construction work in progress was going to be assessed for property taxes and with the passage of amendment number one it’s fairly clear that those things will not be taxed.”
Amendment number two expands an already existing law and will give the spouses of volunteer firefighters, EMS, and paramedics who die on duty, a full property tax exemption on their home. Scott says this will be retroactive to those who have already suffered this tragedy.
“And let’s hope that in the future, there are no new people added to this. Not for tax reasons but for the obvious reason that we do not want anyone else to have to perish on duty doing their very valuable job.”
Scott says with the passage of amendment three, the state has created a new fund within the transportation fund. He says this fund will receive any new money if the legislature decided to increase the gas tax.
“And that expenditures on those monies will be more restricted, even then in the transportation trust fund that we have now.”
Zachary police say a man accused of allegedly murdering his 11-month-old baby is in custody. 33-year-old Fabian Smith is charged in the death of Jericho Smith. Police arrived on the scene Saturday to find the baby lying in a pool of blood with multiple stab wounds. Police Chief David McDavid says Smith did not own up to the incident initially.
"He had made statements to witnesses that he had messed up to call 911", McDavid said. "The kids had come in on it and seen the baby lying there also. It's just a tragic event."
McDavid says they found multiple weapons in the house and the autopsy shows the baby died of stab and gunshot wounds.
"We had also found a knife and a firearm at the scene. The baby had blunt force trauma to the back of the head also", McDavid said.
McDavid says neighbors called 9-1-1 after other children in the Smith’s house ran next door telling them what happened.
"Kids had ran next door to the neighbor. Daddy had told them to call 911. The neighbor walked over and saw the child lying in a pool of blood. The daddy told the neighbor I messed up. Call 911."
Fabian Smith was the only adult home at the time of the murder.
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